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Schneier on Security: Disarming Soldiers

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June 20, 2005

Disarming Soldiers

Airplane security is getting surreal:

...FAA regulation that requires soldiers -- all of whom were armed with an arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns and pistols -- to surrender pocket knives, nose hair scissors and cigarette lighters.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted on June 20, 2005 at 03:04 PM

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Comments

Pointing out obvious stupidity rarely results in intelligent discourse.

Posted by: Chung Leong at June 20, 2005 03:47 PM


You just proved your own point. Now that's what I call ironic.

Posted by: x at June 20, 2005 03:51 PM


"Pointing out obvious stupidity rarely results in intelligent discourse."

I would agree that pointing it out to the stupid is generally futile, but I would argue that by pointing it out in a forum such as this, it can create the intelligent discourse needed to bring about change.

Allowing obvious stupidity to continue unquestioned, however, is pretty much a guarantee against intellignet discourse.

Posted by: Probitas at June 20, 2005 05:03 PM


"Pointing out obvious stupidity rarely results in intelligent discourse."

No, but it often results in amusing dinnertime conversation. (This blog is about intelligent discouse, but it's not only about intelligent discourse.)

Posted by: Bruce Schneier at June 20, 2005 05:21 PM


It is unclear from the article if the soldiers were allowed to carry their assault rifles, shotguns and pistols aboard the plane. All it says is that they were ordered, before boarding, to surrender nail-clippers, etc. It's possible that the guardsmen stowed their weapons in the cargo hold along with the other heavy equipment they were transporting.

Is there a second-source for this story that could clarify if the guardsmen were armed while on board?

Posted by: Buddha BUck at June 20, 2005 05:40 PM


It's also quite possible that the weapons were not loaded, and they were not carrying ammunition. Not that I'd like someone to hit me even with an unloaded M16....

Pointing out truly ridiculous stuff like this can perhaps get those who approve of these measures thinking again about them. Sometimes it takes something truly absurd to jolt people out of mindsets that allow them to accept slight absurdities.

Posted by: Curt Sampson at June 20, 2005 10:52 PM


"It's also quite possible that the weapons were not loaded, and they were not carrying ammunition."

That's practically certain to be the case. For administrative air moves (i.e. no chance of contact with the enemy over the Atlantic), ammunition is never issued, because it creates a risk of accidental or unauthorised discharge without any benefit.

"Pointing out truly ridiculous stuff like this can perhaps get those who approve of these measures thinking again about them. Sometimes it takes something truly absurd to jolt people out of mindsets that allow them to accept slight absurdities."

Quite agreed, that is practically the essence of satire.

Posted by: Roger at June 20, 2005 11:24 PM


"It's also quite possible that the weapons were not loaded, and they were not carrying ammunition."

Having done this in Desert Storm (Gulf War part1), the weapons on board are unloaded. On the other hand we were allowed our Bayonet, and the little known Army issued survival switchblade.

Posted by: Rob at June 21, 2005 04:29 AM


With stories like this it is clear that you're not writing about security so much as the fact that you hate America. Go to Europe you liberal weenie.

Posted by: Texan at June 21, 2005 06:33 AM


>>With stories like this it is clear that you're not writing about security so much as the fact that you hate America. Go to Europe you liberal weenie.<<

Oh, grow up.

Posted by: Adult at June 21, 2005 06:51 AM


Well spoken, Texan. A question for you--will hiding flaws in a system make them go away?

Posted by: Chris at June 21, 2005 06:52 AM


Europe sucks too. Just in different ways. :)

Posted by: European at June 21, 2005 06:54 AM


And South America sucks as well, and in remarkably similar ways. It does suck, however, in a different language.

Posted by: Probitas at June 21, 2005 08:06 AM


Texan, I'm curious about how thinking that needlessly harassing troops on their way to a war is a bad thing proves that one is liberal, or anti-American. Perhaps you think we should harrass them more. It doesn't sound like they made them take their boots off, maybe they should have. I believe that there are dogs that could check them for explosive residue smells as well.

Posted by: Josh O. at June 21, 2005 08:19 AM


I would like to apologize on behalf of all non-jingoistic liberal weenie Texans. We try to keep the trolls locked up, but sometimes they sneak out. (Sometimes they even get into public office; they're slippery that way.)

Posted by: Texan Who Loves Europe at June 21, 2005 08:27 AM


luckily theres never been an American soldier commit an act of terrorism, I mean, you can trust them cant you ? oh, yeah, thats right ... ;-)

Posted by: Rob Mayfield at June 21, 2005 08:51 AM


A co-worker of mine serving in the national guard just got back from Kosovo (about 30 days ago) and was telling me about airport secuity. He carried his M-16, unloaded but with amunition on his person, through security and one of the others in the group was stopped and required to give up thier finger-nail clippers.

Posted by: Les at June 21, 2005 09:18 AM


Seems like the FAA and the FIA have a lot in common. Regulations are not to be bent, not matter how absurd the results of enforcement become.

Posted by: Mark J. at June 21, 2005 09:42 AM


"Seems like the FAA and the FIA have a lot in common. Regulations are not to be bent, not matter how absurd the results of enforcement become."

In a bureaucracy, Cover-Your-Ass syndrome trumps all.

Posted by: jbl at June 21, 2005 12:35 PM


I was in the Marine Corps and had something similar happen to me in 1992. We were flying to Japan for a six month deployment, and stopped at Anchorage to refuel. Since we were going to be a while, they let us off the plane, and we had to go through security to get back on. It was a military flight that left from Cherry Point NC.

I had a "bullet keychain" confiscated -- it wasn't even made from a real bullet. They didn't care that I had a bayonet and a Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife in my carryon - not to mention an M16A2 Service Rifle in the overhead -- the keychain was "contraband" and was kept by the screener.

Posted by: richj at June 21, 2005 01:08 PM


On a pre 9/11 flight I had a similar experience. I'm a computer geek and was traveling with my tool box. Among other things the tool box contained a 6in. icepick (awl) several screwdrivers and a 3oz. hammer . I was also carrying a Leatherman tool with two 3.5in. blades on my belt.

The one item security would not allow on the plane was the hammer. I had to put it in my checked baggage.

I wandered off to the boarding area shaking my head and muttering to myself.

Posted by: Yodat at June 21, 2005 02:01 PM


Having lead deployments myself, my bet is that LTC King simply went along with the stupid security policy and made his anouncement knowing full well:

1) How stupid it sounded
2) That no one was going to actually put anything in the box anyway and
3) That they were not going to conduct a search for "personal grooming products of mass destruction."

It was just easier to humor the FAA/cabin crew, make the announcement, and get on with the deployment to the war zone.

What are you going to do to a guy who did not give up his Leatherman tool anyway? Send him to Iraq?

Posted by: Ted Vinson at June 21, 2005 06:03 PM


"It is unclear from the article if the soldiers were allowed to carry their assault rifles, shotguns and pistols aboard the plane."

The soldiers DO carry their weapons aboard, and have them in hand the entire flight. I know, because I am a soldier, and my job is to create news stories about other soldiers.

They do not have ammo, but if a soldier was so inclined, the buttstock of the M16 or M4 makes a very fine blunt weapon. Much more effective for cracking a skull than a pocketknife would be for stabbing a heart, for instance.

Pure idiocy.

Posted by: Trevor at June 23, 2005 09:53 AM


Your site is great

Posted by: yolonda at July 5, 2006 04:29 PM


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